View of Manuel Antonio from our Airbnb
Costa Rica

10 Best Things to do in Manuel Antonio

There are so many fun things to do in Costa Rica, but it can be overwhelming trying to decide which area to visit in order to do as much as possible. That’s why Manuel Antonio is the perfect retreat for anyone looking for both adventure and relaxation. There are so many activities that will appeal to nearly every type of traveler.

Our family of 7 adults recently spent 7 days in Manuel Antonio as part of a 10 day Costa Rica family vacation and it was the perfect amount of time for us to enjoy almost everything this area had to offer. This guide is ideal anyone looking for a getaway with a perfect balance of excitement and peacefulness which is so hard to find in one vacation.

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10 Best Things to do in Manuel Antonio

1. Hike in Manuel Antonio National Park (Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio)

Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

The crown jewel of Manuel Antonio is the national park. Here you’ll get the chance to see so much wildlife and enjoy time on a pristine beach with no crowds. I loved the views we got to see from the hike we took to Cathedral Point. The trails were not long and we only spent about an hour hiking before we found a spot to relax on the beach.

Monkey hanging on a sign at Manuel Antonio National Park
I spy a curious little monkey looking at the crowd below!

I highly recommend visiting the park first thing in the morning. Manuel Antonio National Park limits the number of people allowed inside at one time, so if you arrive late you will most likely have to wait to enter. This happened to us and we arrived around 10:00 am. We were asked to wait in a pavilion and then once they opened the gates it was a mad rush inside. Also, parking is tricky. Don’t be fooled by the parking guys trying to pull you into their lots way before the park entrance. Wait until you get within walking distance of the park entrance and use one of the lots close to the gate.

  • Website: Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Cost: Adults $16, children under 12 are free
  • Hours: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm; Closed on Mondays
  • Time needed: 2 – 4 hours
  • Important info: No alcohol is permitted inside the park. Packed sandwiches, fruit, and non-alcoholic drinks are allowed.

2. Catch Fresh Tuna for Dinner

Eric holding the mahi-mahi he caught in Quepos Costa Rica

There’s nothing like fresh seafood when you’re next to the ocean, but what if you could catch it yourself? Sportfishing is huge in Costa Rica and you can get in on the action with a half or full-day Quepos fishing charter.

We loved our deep sea fishing trip with Fuhgeddaboudit Fishing in Quepos. The crew were amazing and ensured we headed to the areas where we would have the best chance of hooking fish like tuna, sailfish, and mahi-mahi. We ended up catching one mahi-mahi and 2 big tunas. It was a great trip, but keep in mind, if you have more than 4 people, it’s very likely those extra people will not be able to reel in anything. We still had a great time just being out on the water and watching the others fight to pull in their fish!

Curious about bringing fish home with you? It is possible! Check out this article to learn how to do this the right way. We followed this guide and made it home to the USA without any issues. Also, if you’d like to enjoy your fish fresh while in Costa Rica, there are several restaurants that will prepare a lovely dinner for you using your freshly caught fish. Check with your fishing company for a list of those restaurants.

3. Zipline through the Treetops

Lauryn at El Santuario in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

El Santuario was the perfect zipline company to go with for a Costa Rican ziplining adventure. The guides were so attentive and reassuring to those of us who were a little nervous. They were all really funny too. If you have kids with you this is the perfect activity for them. We were with a group that had 5 small girls with them and they had a blast. The minimum age is 4 years old to ride tandem with a guide. To ride solo, you must be between 75 – 275 pounds.

If you’re not sure if you’ll have time for this activity, you don’t need to book this ahead of time. We didn’t book this activity until the day before, but they were very accommodating and we didn’t have any issues making the reservation.

So what sets El Santuario apart from all the other zipline companies in Costa Rica? They hold the record for the longest zip line in Central America at 4,300 feet! It was an incredible experience flying down that line soaring above the treetops.

If you’re worried about how you’ll be able to capture this incredible day in photos, don’t worry! The El Santuario photographer will take photos of you the entire time. You aren’t obligated to purchase them at the end, but we thought it was worth it.

  • Website: El Santuario
  • Time needed: 5.5 hours
  • Cost: $75 per person (includes lunch and roundtrip transportation)

4. Scuba Dive in the Vast Underwater Ecosystem of Costa Rica

My brother in law and his girlfriend are PADI certified so while we were zipping through the trees, they went exploring the underwater world of Costa Rica. They loved their tour with Oceans Unlimited and had an amazing time seeing the amazing wildlife down below. Costa Rica has some of the best scuba diving in the world, so if you’re certified I’d highly recommend adding this to your list.

  • Website: Oceans Unlimited
  • Time needed: The dive is 45 minutes, however, make sure to include time for travel
  • Cost: $109 per person

5. Unwind with a Spa Day

Sometimes in between all of the hiking and exploring, you need to pamper yourself. This is a vacation after all. Treat yourself to a spa day either at a spa or in your villa. We arranged for two masseuses to come to our villa for a relaxing afternoon of massages and facials. It was the perfect way to unwind after several days of non-stop activities.

We loved the Detox System spa package which included a volcanic mud body treatment, facial, and massage. It was amazing!

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6. Explore the Charming Town of Quepos

The downtown area of Quepos is a tiny collection of souvenir shops, small cafes, and restaurants. It doesn’t take very long, but I highly recommend taking a morning or afternoon to explore the town. We found the best prices on souvenirs at the stores in Quepos.

  • Tip: If you park along the street be careful of the drainage ditch. There isn’t a barrier between the ditch and the road so it’s very easy to roll into one. They are deep and I can imagine it would be difficult to get out if you find yourself stuck in one.
  • Time needed: 1 – 2 hours (more if you plan to eat there)

7. Visit Damas Island by Water

Kayaking around Damas Island was something I hoped we would get to do but unfortunately, we didn’t have time. You’ll see so much wildlife on land in Manuel Antonio, but putting yourself in the water around Damas Island will give you a completely different experience.

  • Recommended tour: Mangrove Kayak Tour
  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Cost: $69 per person (includes transportation and lunch)

8. Enjoy a Beach Day

Beach at Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

There are many beaches in Manuel Antonio, but we really enjoyed the less chaotic beaches inside the national park. Since there’s a cost to get in, there are fewer people. It was so nice to have a portion of the beach almost entirely to ourselves.

Manuel Antonio National Park can get very crowded but if you head over close to when it opens, you won’t have to wait to go in. Also, keep in mind that you can bring food and non-alcoholic drinks with you so pack yourself a picnic lunch to enjoy while you’re soaking in the sun.

  • Tips: Do not leave anything unattended on the beach. There are monkeys everywhere and they will steal your things. Also, make sure to bring a towel. We forgot a towel and had to walk around with sandy feet until we reached a foot-washing area along the path to the exit.
  • Cost: If you decide to go to the national park, adults are $16 and children are free. There are also several free public beaches near the heart of Quepos.
  • Time needed: 2 – 3 hours (or all day if you want)
  • Hours: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm; Closed on Mondays
  • Important info: No alcohol is permitted inside the park. Packed sandwiches, fruit, and non-alcoholic drinks are allowed.

9. Buy Fresh Food at the Local Market (Ferias del Agricultor)

Pineapple from Costa Rica

Every Friday and Saturday, Quepos has a lovely farmers market where locals and tourists can purchase fresh produce and handicrafts. It’s located on a large corner just before the marina on the south side of Quepos across from the beach.

Pair this with #6 on this list for a lovely Friday or Saturday morning in town. Head to a cute cafe like Cafe Milagro for a latte then wander to a couple of souvenir shops before heading to the market.

  • Time needed: less than 1 hour (the market is small)
  • Hours: All day Friday, Saturday until noon
  • What to buy: Rambutans (fruit), mangosteen (fruit), pineapple, fresh tortillas, locally made cheeses, coconuts, and much more!
  • Important info: You will need the local currency (colones) in cash in order to make a purchase at the market.

10. Take a day trip to Rainmaker Mountain

Rainmaker Mountain is a conservation center located just outside the Manuel Antonio area. If you aren’t able to visit the hanging bridges in La Fortuna, this is your chance to walk along them in Manuel Antonio. It will take about 40 minutes to drive to Rainmaker Mountain from Manuel Antonio.

There are guided tours which you can reserve online in the link below. The guide will take you through the forest pointing out various animals along the way that you might not see on your own. However, you do not need a guide or reservations in order to visit this forest.

  • Website: Rainmaker Mountain
  • Cost: $80 for a guided tour or $20 for the entrance fee and walk the trails on your own
  • Hours: 7:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Time needed: 2 – 3 hours (plus travel time)

 

Whether you choose to do all of these things or just a few, you’re sure to have an incredible time in Manuel Antonio. Make sure to work in some time to catch a sunset or two at a local bar with a view. There are many and most of them have great happy hour specials.

– Bisous!

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